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Netherlands hyperloop aims to improve transportation of people and freight with the new technology

A 400-metre long white steel pipe running along a railway line in the windswept north of the Netherlands could usher in a new era in the transport of people and cargo.

The tube is the centerpiece of the new European Hyperloop Center, which opens on Tuesday and will be a testing ground for developers of the evolving technology for years to come.

Hyperloop, once touted by Elon Musk, involves a capsule suspended in a magnetic field zipping through a low-pressure tube at speeds of about 435 miles per hour. Its proponents tout it as far more efficient than short-haul flights, high-speed rail and freight trucks.

But ever since Mr. Musk unveiled the concept, which could travel the roughly 400 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 30 minutes, the idea has moved from zero to reality at a much slower pace.

“By 2030, we will probably have the first hyperloop route of 5 kilometers (3 miles), and people will actually be transporting passengers,” said Sasha Lam, the center’s director. . “In fact, preparations for such a route are already underway in countries such as Italy and India.”

Not everyone is optimistic about Hyperloop’s future.

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Robert Noland, a distinguished professor at Rutgers University’s Bluestein School of Planning and Public Policy, said in an emailed comment to The Associated Press that “this is a time when policymakers need to make fundamental investments in infrastructure. “It’s just an example of someone chasing a shiny object.”

“It’s too expensive to build,” he added.

The Hyperloop in the northern Netherlands aims to advance the technology of transporting people and cargo. (AP Photo/Peter DeJong)

Rame said skeptics should come and see for themselves.

“We built the European Hyperloop Center and we know from what we’ve built so far that it can compete with high-speed rail,” he said. “And we haven’t even incorporated all the cost optimizations that can be done over the next 10 years to reduce it further.”

The test center tube consists of 34 separate sections, most of which are 8 feet in diameter. A vacuum pump in a steel container next to the tube sucks out the air, reducing the internal pressure. This reduces drag and allows the capsule to move faster.

A test capsule manufactured by Dutch hyperloop pioneer Hart Hyperloop will take part in its first tests next month at the center, which was funded by private investment and donations from state governments, the Dutch central government and the European Commission. do.

A unique feature of Veendam tubes is that they are equipped with a switch, where they are split into two separate tubes and become part of the infrastructure critical for practical applications.

“Lane switching is very important for Hyperloop because it allows the vehicle to travel from any origin to any destination,” said Marinus van Hurd, director of technology and engineering at Heard. Del Mace said. “So it really creates a network effect where it’s like a subway highway where vehicles can turn on and off, switch lanes and go to different parts of Europe or different destinations.”

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While testing continues at Veendam, Hyperloop developers hope to see a destination for their technology soon.

“In fact, the main challenge is to find government commitment to build the route, while also finding new funding to deliver the test facilities and technology demonstrations needed to make this a reality.” Mr. Lam said.

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